Wedding Bells Ring at Mercy Hospital

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August 15, 2008

When Carl Duerr of East Aurora was hospitalized four days before his daughter’s wedding for unexpected heart surgery, there was little hope he would be able to participate in the wedding ceremony and reception that was to follow. But thanks to the quick work of some nurses, doctors and number of other special staff at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Duerr was not only able to walk his daughter, Erin (Duerr) Jarnot, down the aisle (in the Mercy Hospital Chapel), but also enjoy a special father-daughter dance and keep tabs on the reception via a two-way computer webcam between the hospital and reception hall.

Duerr began experiencing chest pain on July 29 and was admitted to Mercy Hospital. An angiogram two days later revealed he would need heart surgery and be hospitalized for at least a week, missing any chance to attend his daughter’s wedding. That’s when hospital staff told him about Mercy Hospital’s beautiful chapel and the wheels started turning. In less than 48 hours, plans were in place for him to share in his daughter’s special day with a second ceremony held at Mercy Hospital on August 2.

“Either way, I knew the wedding party planned to stop by the hospital between the ceremony and reception,” Duerr said from his hospital room. “First, I called the minister, Rev. Brian Rotach, and the organist, Carole Carere, who have been my friends since college. When they agreed to repeat the ceremony at the hospital, the next step was to contact my doctors at the Buffalo Heart Group.”

With the help of Kelly Dziedzik, a nurse practitioner at Buffalo Heart Group, Duerr’s doctors – Michael Banas, M.D.; Robert Gianfagna, M.D. and Michael Hong, M.D. – granted him permission to participate in the hospital nuptials. Mercy Hospital nurse, Kathy Kelly, RN, made the rest of the arrangements and helped Duerr get ready for the big day. She and a medical team accompanied him to the Mercy Chapel, where Chaplain David Baker of Mercy’s Spiritual Care Department had everything prepared. The hospital’s Security staff even reserved a parking spot near the main lobby door for the wedding party limo.

Jarnot was married at the planned ceremony at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, and then the entire wedding party, plus more than fifty guests, organist and minister, traveled to Mercy Hospital for round two.

Following the emotional ceremony, Kelly came up with the idea to surprise the bride by also making arrangements for a father-daughter dance in the chapel. She was able to upload the special song Jarnot had chosen and play it through the chapel’s sound system. The ceremony and dance were broadcast on closed-circuit TV throughout the hospital.

“This story had a happy ending…it was nice to play a part in this event that meant so much to our patient and his family,” said Kelly, who has been a nurse at Mercy for over 25 years.

Later that evening, patients and visitors were congratulating the family as friends stopped by to bring Duerr dinner and cake from the reception. In addition to participating in the hospital chapel ceremony, Duerr was able to watch the wedding rehearsal and dinner, wedding ceremony, and reception, via a webcam on his laptop computer, from his hospital bed. There was also a chat bar set up at the reception so guests could visit with him throughout the evening.

“Even though we had so many last-minute things to do before the wedding, time just stopped when we heard the news about my dad and all of our focus was turned to him,” said Erin Jarnot. “I want to thank my family, the doctors and nurses, and everyone who helped make this happen. I was able to get wedding photos with my dad in the chapel. Somehow, everything worked out the way it was supposed to be. Even my honeymoon had been planned for a week later so I was able to be here for the surgery.”

Duerr underwent heart surgery, performed by John Bell-Thomson, M.D., on August 5. Before leaving the hospital on August 8, he, along with his daughter and nurse Kelly, were interviewed by Channel 2 for a touching story that was aired on its evening and morning news programs.